You may not have heard of the term “mass notification” in the past but that is about to change. In 2010, the United States updated the existing National Fire Alarm building codes (NFPA-72) to include mass communication audio requirements. The code was updated to address the need to respond to more than just fire related emergencies. The new codes address specific needs of the control apparatus, communication protocols as well as methods of data exchange.
The current US standard under UL-2572, is now in the process of being adopted in Canada and is currently under revision to meet our current CSA, Fire and Building Code standards. The latest information we have received indicates these standards will be released in Canada at some point in 2013-2014.
In short, mass notification provides real time information and instructions to people in a geographic area, site or building installation. Advanced has been providing Mass and Emergency Notification solutions for many years now. We quickly learned from working with a variety of industries there were three important considerations that needed to be taken into account.
- Simplicity – The implemented solution must be able to be operated by personnel who are not IT specialists.
- Reliability – In some cases, lives could be at stake. The system must be reliable and able to function in a variety of different situations and environments.
- Sophistication – The system must be sophisticated enough have to have a full complement of drivers and backup drivers to properly plan ahead in case of emergency.
Paging Systems are the most common type of mass notification system and these have developed into our largest market. We have the capability to deliver comprehensive systems that would be installed in such venues as small hospitals and industrial facilities to the world’s largest airports. All of our systems are designed to provide professional quality audio and intelligibility with CD quality performance. Telephone grade paging systems may be easy to install but they do not provide the quality most facilities desire or the intelligibility soon to be legally required for mass notification.
Some of the key features that are now included in today’s state of the art mass notification systems are computer controlled messaging, store and forward announcements, digital zoning, multi-zone ambient analysis, automatic backup amplifier switching and multi-function paging stations.
New Canadian Building Standards
Mass Notification Systems are coming to Canada and the code requirements are now being determined. One area that will require close attention to detail will be the intelligibility of the installed speaker systems.
Speech and alert signaling into large reverberant spaces, small areas and outdoor locations must deliver messages that are clearly understood above any difficult acoustic environments and ambient noise levels. Knowing the characteristics of the spaces and the expected or anticipated ambient noise will be critical in designing an intelligible system. Our expert engineering team will be able to work with you to help design the system that best operates in your environment.
These specific characteristics of your environment will determine the type of speaker and it’s specifications that will allow for this required intelligibility. The relationship between the message delivered and the room acoustics plus ambient noise, is called the Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR). In effect, there must be more signal than noise.
Large spaces that support reverberant fields, delayed reflections and difficulty focusing the sound combined with ambient noise levels can all contribute to the degrading of the intelligibility of the message. These types of influences tend to mask the speech consonants which impart the meaning to many words in the English language. Noise is considered any signal that is not part of the original message.
If you are planning a building renovation or new build project, please contact our Design Engineering team to consult on the latest building codes and standards for implementing a system that will meet your needs.
Can you effectively communicate within your facility when an emergency strikes?
Mass Notification / Wide Area Communications have recently been at the forefront of many regulatory discussions. As noted above, the standards for commercial buildings in Canada are changing and it will soon be important to have a reliable Mass Notification System (MNS) installed in public facilities.
These systems will improve the safety, confidence and well being of the patrons and employees of the facility by providing clear, intelligible sound (instruction / information) throughout a facility during an emergency, or during times when it is important to communicate to the patrons within the facility. The systems will also aid in the execution of emergency plans, procedures and communications to everyone within the building, helping to maintain order and reduce the loss of life and prevent serious injury.
It’s clear from reviewing the new US standards that it will be important for the MNS to be able to communicate critical information (live or pre-recorded) intelligibly throughout a facility in a quick and efficient manner so that the message reaches everyone. The system will need to work in conjunction with PA Systems and Life Safety Systems.
How can we help? Our philosophy is that if you are designing a new mass notification system you should look to incorporate such things as PA / Intercom systems, fire voice systems, network PC’s, CCTV systems, Flat panel or LED displays and phone systems. Wide Area notification systems should consist of an outdoor public address, giant voice speaker systems, sirens and strobes, electronic signage, emergency call stations and CCTV systems.
We typically suggest that when designing your system, also look to include a detailed list of distributed recipients and varying means of communication including cell phones and SMS (text) messaging, pagers, personal email, hand held radios, instant messaging, or computer pop-ups.
Mass notification systems will soon be legally required in any facilities where large crowds of people regularly gather. These venues could include (but are not limited to) educational facilities, hospitality and retail spaces, office buildings, sporting venues, hospitals, and transportation.
Before contacting our Advanced engineers to discuss your mass notification system, think about the following questions;
- Who must be notified?
- What buildings or geographical area(s) require coverage?
- Who will operate the system and from where?
- Will the message be live or pre-recorded?
- How quickly will the information be required?
- Will the system be used in non-emergency situations?
- Will the MNS interface with other systems?
Together with our manufacturer partners we have been providing emergency broadcast systems for a many years. If you are planning an upcoming project and wish to consult on the latest standards and requirements, please contact our Solutions Team and we will be pleased to assist you.
Network Enabled Intercom Systems
It’s clear that if installed properly, mass notification systems will improve the safety, confidence and well being of the patrons and employees of the facility by providing clear, intelligible sound broadcasts.
Critical information (live or prerecorded) can be communicated intelligibly throughout a facility in a quick and efficient manner, using our state of the art IP Intercom System. These systems work in conjunction with existing PA Systems, CCTV Systems and Life Safety Systems, including the fire alarm or access control.
Designed to offer no-compromise reliability, our IP network enabled intercom system using packet audio technology also allows for monitoring real-time on an internet browser.
Contact us today to discuss our IP intercom system which is a highly reliable solution that guarantees fast, accurate and reliable communications.
Wide Area Communication – Networked Audio
Advanced is increasingly being asked about solutions which enable our clients to communicate with multiple buildings. As organizations invest in mass notification, they are looking for a communication system that can deliver a message quickly, effectively and to everyone in the building.
University and College campuses are a good example of this as they often have many buildings covering a large geographic area. Often whole facility communication is non-existent because traditional analog audio systems are impractical to implement, with the facilities relying on the telephone system or e-mail.
Admittedly, the telephone method requires multiple calls to deliver the message, which is time consuming and often not a practical form of communication in an emergency. Of course an alternative form of communication is email. But again, this is neither practical nor the most effective form of communication.
Modern communication methods are well established and include high bandwidth and high speed LAN / WAN structures. Universities and Colleges as an example have invested significant resources into these networks.
Why not implement a system that will use the existing network?
That’s where Advanced comes in. Together with our partners we have developed a network translation device for audio (VoIP), allowing up to CD quality audio over a 10/100Base network using TCP / IP Protocol. In short, we are able to deliver effective communication from a central location to remote buildings as in the case of a University or College campus. We also have the capability to allow for two-way communication from a central source to other devices connected to standard audio paging systems either individually, as a group and all call. By using our state of the art audio solutions, the central / sending location can be assured that the receiving destination / building has received the message by utilizing an audio call back or a remote activated switch.
Advanced networked audio solutions can be used in many other applications including voice distribution to remote broadcast areas such as roadside locations and railway stations, general purpose broadcasts in supermarket chain stores and department stores. In addition they are commonly found within manufacturing plants and other large environments such as airports and stadiums.
Contact our Design Engineering team to start planning for the implementation of your Mass Notification System.